Breckenridge Texan

Breckenridge High School graduate dies in Andrews ISD bus crash

Breckenridge High School graduate dies in Andrews ISD bus crash
November 20
15:22 2021

By Carla McKeown and Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

A Breckenridge High School graduate was among those killed in Friday afternoon’s school bus crash near Big Spring.

Darin K. Johns, a 1986 BHS graduate, died at the scene of the crash that involved an Andrews High School bus and a pickup that was going the wrong way, according to Department of Public Safety reports.

Additionally, the driver of the bus, Marc Elbert Boswell, 69, of Andrews, and Nathan Paul Haile, 59, of Midland, who was driving the pickup that hit the bus, were killed. Haile was pronounced dead at the scene, and Boswell was transported to a hospital in Lubbock, where he later succumbed to his injuries, according to news and DPS reports.

Shortly after the crash, news spread quickly on social media. However, officials didn’t release the names of the deceased until Saturday morning.

Department of Public Safety Sgt. Justin Baker, media communications representative for the San Angelo/West Texas region, said in a news conference Friday that shortly before 4:45 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, a Ford F-350 was going the wrong way “for unknown reasons” in the eastbound lane of Interstate 20 around mile marker 179 near Big Spring when the vehicle collided head-on with an Andrews ISD charter bus that was traveling eastbound in the same lane. The pickup caught fire as a result of the crash, Baker said.

There were three buses traveling together from Andrews to Sweetwater to play Springtown High School in a 4A football playoff game. The first bus was hit head-on, and the second bus was also hit, but not as severely, Baker said. Friday night’s football game was canceled and rescheduled, possibly for Monday night.

Johns, who was a passenger in the first bus, graduated from Breckenridge High School in 1986 and Abilene Christian University in 1990. He was the band director at Jim Ned, Ballinger and Colorado City before Andrews.

Former BHS Band Director Dane Richardson said he has been friends for many years with Johns, whose mother, Judith Johns, taught school in Breckenridge. He was famous in the school band and Breckenridge communities, Richardson said, adding, “He was one of the legends.”

According to the Abilene Reporter-News, the DPS said that Johns’ wife, Karen Johns, also was injured in the crash and was taken to the hospital. She is an elementary teacher in Andrews. The Breckenridge Texan was unable to confirm the status of her condition on Saturday.

Additionally, at least one of the students on the bus has ties to Breckenridge, and Joseph Firenza, former assistant BISD band director, is the assistant band director at Andrews High School. Firenza was at the scene but was not on the bus that was hit head-on. Richardson said he has talked to Firenza and that he is OK.

According to Baker, there were 25 students and three adults on the first bus. Two students were airlifted to Lubbock and were in “critical but stable condition” on Friday, according to Baker. Additionally, Baker said, 11 students and the third adult on the bus were transported to the Big Spring hospital where they were being treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement Friday night, saying, “Our hearts go out to those who were injured or lost their lives in the bus crash in Big Spring, and we grieve for the families of those taken too soon. The Texas Department of Public Safety is working closely with local officials to investigate this accident, and the State of Texas is ready to provide any additional resources and support needed to Andrews ISD, Big Spring, and those affected by this tragedy. I thank the first responders who rushed to the scene to help those involved in the crash, and I ask Texans to join me and Cecilia in prayer for those involved in this horrific accident.”

(Photo of Darin Jones courtesy of Andrews Independent School District)

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